Q&A: Ragini Bhalla, director of marketing and communications at Fantasy Interactive

Ragini Bhalla, director of marketing and communications at digital agency Fantasy Interactive, discusses her new role and how building loyalty online differs from offline channels.

Direct Marketing News (DMN): What are your immediate goals in your new position?

Bhalla (Fantasy Interactive): Right now I’m focusing on conceptualizing and developing marketing for the agency. My job is to tell our story in a unique and relevant way. I have to create PR buzz and awareness for Fantasy Interactive. I also want to showcase the talent here. I want to create thought leadership opportunities with interactive presentation and demos showcasing the work that we do. We’re in the middle of redesigning our website. We want it to reflect the best things that we accomplish. I’m working on the editorial strategy for this, writing copy that drives our message.

DMN: How can brands leverage digital channels to build customer loyalty in different ways than they can via traditional channels?

Bhalla: When I look at loyalty, it’s about associating a product or service with a strong brand. You can’t predict if a customer will walk away to a competitor, but you can create an emotional attachment. On Facebook, I may have a friend who just purchased a deal. When the friend posts that deal, if I see that, I’m more inclined to trust that person than a brand. That makes me more inclined to buy it. When you look at what people do on social networks, it impacts their decisions and could make or break purchase decisions.

DMN: Email is a cost-effective and easy way to communicate with customers. But email can also hurt relationships if used improperly. How do you determine the best practices for each client?

Bhalla: A lot of it comes down to common sense. When talking about best practices, it’s case by case. From my perspective, I look at newsletters and understand the audience and the demographics. Who are the people spending money? What’s their age group? The older demographic may not want 20 emails a day but one a month. With younger generations, you might want to leverage social and video more.

DMN: There’s been some argument in the industry that social can’t drive sales. Is that true? Why? Why not?

Bhalla: One of the most important things for brands is creating an emotional connection. If I’m looking at purchasing a product, I’ll go somewhere where there’s an intimate conversation happening. It takes a casual browser and makes them come back repeatedly. It’s interactive. Users are sharing and creating the dialogue. It isn’t just the brand talking to consumers but consumers talking to each other. I also think social is actually a great way for brands to minimize risk and negative attention. You can create love and passion for brand values, services, and that reduces risk of negative publicity. You’ve got to make sure the brand is transparent. If consumers feel brands give fake answers, they’re more likely to walk away.

DMN: Will brands continue to use direct mail or will digital ultimately win out completely?

Bhalla: I’ll be honest. Over the next five years, traditional mail will die down. We live in a digital world. Print mail won’t be the best way to reach people. It may for a certain demographic, but the landscape is changing and it’s all about digital. People are on their phones, walking to the train and downloading apps simultaneously. How do you leverage social, mobile and rich media to grab attention and create repeat customers?

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